AKRON, Ohio – The Mason softball team left everything they had on the field at Firestone Stadium Friday night.
The way the Comets competed, played with energy and passion and most importantly played for one another through 29 games, was something none of the players or coaches will soon forget.
“I am nothing but proud to be their head coach and to really watch them encourage one another, constantly compete and come back,” Mason coach Liann Muff said. “It’s really humbling to be their head coach.”
Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit defeated Mason 5-2 in a Division I state semifinal Friday night. But the Comets will never forget this special journey this spring.
Mason (26-3), ranked No. 3 in the season’s final state coaches’ poll, made its fourth state tournament appearance after it won the regional title last week.
“When we wear these uniforms and we are with our sisters in that dugout, all we want to do is to help pick each other up and help each other out,” senior second baseman Olivia Hopkins said.
Hopkins and senior third baseman Erin Rockstroh were with the 2013 state tournament qualifier. Both players graduated weeks ago but were emotional speaking about their experience with the softball program Friday night.
“Every day I get to wake up and put on a Mason softball uniform is an amazing day,” Hopkins said. “Like Erin said before, that’s why we are crying -- because it’s been so special. This season has been so special. The girls are amazing, and coach Muff and (assistant) coach (Dave) Bell -- I couldn’t ask for better coaches.”
And true to the team’s character, the Comets didn’t fold despite trailing 2-0 early Friday against the ninth-ranked Warriors.
Junior Brooke Rice led off the fifth inning with a triple -- just the second hit the Comets had Friday night. Rice scored on junior Elle Buffenbarger’s sacrifice fly to right to cut the lead to 2-1.
Walsh added a run in the top of the sixth to make it 3-1. But the Comets threatened in the sixth.
Rockstroh walked to lead off the bottom of the sixth. Sophomore Olivia Popovich reached on a throwing error to allow Rockstroh to score from first to cut Walsh’s lead to 3-2.
Mason loaded the bases with one out, but weren’t able to convert and stranded three runners.
“It was deflating to have bases loaded and not be able to punch another run in for sure,” Muff said. “Every batter that was up there battled at the plate. No one went down easy. They were all hard outs. Again, that’s all you can ask for from them.”
Mason freshman Ali Weekley had the other hit for the Comets with a single up the middle in the third inning.
Buffenbarger finished her season with a 22-3 record as a pitcher.
Walsh Jesuit (23-5) advances to the state final at 7 p.m. Saturday against either Amherst Steele or Ashville Teays Valley.